Botany & Description of Salvia divinorum

Scientific classification

     Kingdom : Plantae
     Division : Magnoliophyta
     Class : Magnoliopsida
     Order : Lamiales
     Family : Lamiaceae
     Genus : Salvia
     Species : Salvia divinorum

     Common names : Diviner's mint, Diviner's sage, Hierba Maria, La Hembra, Ska Pastora, Shepherdess's Herb, Ska Maria Pastora, Yerba de Maria, Sally-D, Divining Sage, Wisdom Sage, Leaves of the Virgin Shepardess, Pipiltzintzintli (Aztec), Mexican mint, Sadi, Salvia, The Shepardess, Sacred healer of the Mazatec.

     Related species : Salvia splendens, Salvia cyanea, Salvia apiana, Salvia coccinea.

     The name of this Genus is derived from the Latin salvus, for safe.


     There are believed to be only two known cultivars of this species, but I personally think the possibility exists that some other undocumented cultivars may have been brought into this country. The "Wasson clone" which is descended from the original specimens brought into this country in 1962 by Gordon Wasson after first being collected on July 12th 1961, around Ayauta, Oaxaca. Gordon Wasson was the first recorded non-native to sample Salvia's great power. The other variety, the "palatable clone" is supposedly a less bitter type of the plant collected by Bret Blosser in Llano de Arnica, Oaxaca Mexico.

     There is a possible third variety called the "Herbal-Shaman Easy Care", which is of unknown lineage but shows enough morphological differences to possibly be considered another variety of Salvia divinorum. This variety tolerates much drier conditions than the more tropical Wasson and Blosser clones, and will survive indoors without misting if kept well watered.

     This magical herb grows as a small, perennial bush, reaching a height of from 0.5 - 1.5 meters tall. The leaves grow opposite, are elliptical to ovoid in shape with serrate edges. They also have a silvery tinge to their bright green color, are from 5 - 10 cm wide and 10 - 30 cm long. The hollow stems are quadrangular in shape, have flanged angles and are also bright green.

     Its native habitat is in ravines in the vicinity of cloud and evergreen forests, often along rocky stream beds, growing in rich, black soil. In these conditions the plants will often have many roots sprouting profusely from its nodes. Prefers an altitude of 300 - 1800 meters elevation.

     Very few plants have ever been discovered in the wild as they are rare, located in generally inaccesible regions, and the Indians tend to hide their patches and not disclose the locations to anyone.

     This plant was first described to occidental science in 1939 by J. B. Johnson.

Native to

     The Mexican State of Oaxaca. Specifically, the Mazatec zone of the Sierra Madre Oriental. There is some speculation that the plant was introduced to that area and possibly originates in Asia. This is due to the fact that Salvia ( the female ) was considered related to Coleus pumila ( the male ) and Coleus blumei ( the child ) which are both of Asiatic decent and believed to be introduced in post-conquest Mesoamerica.


     Unlike other sages, Salvia divinorum produces very few seeds, and the seeds it does produce seldom germinate. It appears to have very little histocompatibility variation, so the pollen from a plant genetically identical to the style fails to reach the ovule. It is propagated by cuttings and by falling over and growing new roots. Although reportedly (Valdez, et al) isolated stands of S. divinorum exist in its native range, these are thought to be purposely created and tended by the people of the region. Therefore it is considered a true cultivar and thus does not occur naturally in the wild anywhere.

     For the most part, the fate of the species lies with a very small number of clone plants. Of these few clones, there are only two that are in any kind of public circulation; the Wasson/Hofmann strain, and the Blosser ("Palatable") strain. The former is a strain discovered by those whose name the plant bears, when on a visit to the Mazatecs. The latter is the same case, in regards to name, and was discovered in Oaxaca; it is called "Palatable" as well, as it is said to have more palatable leaves when ingested orally than those of the Wasson/Hofmann strain, though other reports state that there is little difference between the taste of the plants. Other varieties are also grown, including the Luna strain which is a strange offshoot of the Hofmann/Wasson line. A few other strains exist, but they are mostly quite similar, in potency, effect, and growth.